ATENEO coach Tab Baldwin has no plans on adding a new foreign student-athlete in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament once Ange Kouame has been naturalized.
Kouame, the Ivory Coast native who is turning 23 this month, has his bid to become a Filipino citizen finally moving with the approval of House Bill No. 5951 from the Justice Committee last Wednesday.
“I’ve heard the same rumors and we have not discussed it. I can [only] tell you how I feel about that. I don’t know what the UAAP’s view of it will be, but they are within their rights to look at it on an individual basis and judge it that way,” said Baldwin during Thursday’s “Coaches Unfiltered” vodcast.
“I can tell you as the coach of the team that I would not be looking to add another import player. I won’t be taking advantage of Ange being a ‘local’ just because possibly the rules have not considered that scenario yet,” the Kiwi-American mentor added.
The current Gilas Pilipinas men’s basketball program director pointed out that the reason for Kouame, who has three years of UAAP eligibility, to become a Filipino is because of national interest.
“For me, I think I would rather have our team play on the same basis as every other team, and every team has one foreign student-athlete,” said Baldwin.
“Once Ange legitimately changes his nationality, it does not really change the perspective on why he was brought to the country which is for the college basketball. I would not be in favor of exploiting that loophole to try and gain a competitive advantage for the team,” he added.
League rules state that each varsity team can have one foreign student-athlete in the roster.
A former Rookie of the Year winner, Kouame anchored Ateneo’s two of the three UAAP men’s basketball championships, including last year’s historic 16-0 sweep. The 6-foot-10 center averaged 12.5 points, 14 rebounds and 5.5 blocks per game last season.
Kouame was actually included to the 16-man national team pool composed of young guns in the recently-concluded second window of the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers in the Manama, Bahrain bubble, but was not able suit up as his naturalization process remains pending.